The Washington Capitals power play provided a much-needed jolt of offense, even if it came from an unexpected source, leading the Caps to a 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night in Philadelphia.
It was Jason Chimera putting the “power” in the Caps’ power play, scoring a pair of man-advantage goals in the second period. The first came with the Flyers holding a 2-1 lead mid-way through the period. It was the result of some deft hand-eye work by Chimera and Evgeny Kuznetsov. From just inside the Flyers’ blue line, Justin Williams threw the puck across the ice to Kuznetsov entering the offensive zone. Kuznetsov managed to get his stick on an uncooperative puck, one timing the feed into a bloop pass that floated over the sticks of a pair of Flyers defenders to Chimera heading to the net. Chimera whacked the puck as it was falling out of the air past goalie Steve Mason, and the game was tied.
Williams got a goal of his own less than two minutes later when he looped around a clot of players at the top of the Flyer crease and beast Nick Schultz to a loose puck, snapping it past Mason’s left pad to make it 3-2.
Then it was Chimera again on a power play. Late in the second period, Chimera took a drop pass from Tom Wilson in the right wing circle, sent the puck back to Matt Niskanen at the right point, then headed for the slot. Niskanen fired, and Chimera got enough of the puck sailing through to redirect it past Mason and make the score 4-2 heading into the second intermission.
Nicklas Backstrom ended the scoring in the third period, but it was hard work by Tom Wilson that started the scoring play. Chris VendeVelde played the puck behind his own net to his partner, Evgeny Medvedev. The puck got caught for a moment in Medvedev’s skates, and it was enough for Wilson to pounce. He checked Medvedev off the puck and fed it in front to Marcus Johansson skating down the middle. Johansson slid the puck over to Backstrom at the inside edge of the right wing circle, and Backstrom one-timed the puck past Mason for the final 5-2 margin.
-- T.J. Oshie snapped a five-game streak without a goal when he scored in the first period. He was the beneficiary of another instance of Evgeny Kuznetsov circling around the opponent’s net and back passing to the trailing player. This time, Kuznetsov sent a pass from his forehand back through the legs of defenseman Michael Del Zotto to Oshie filling in the space Kuznetsov left.
-- Kuznetsov had a pair of assists, his first two assist game since recording a pair against Edmonton on October 23rd. He has four assists in his last four games.
-- The record will have to wait another game. In his pursuit of the record for most goals scored by a Russian-born player, Alex Ovechkin was held to a pair of shots on goal and just three shot attempts.
-- Every Capital but Oshie was credited with at least one hit. Jay Beagle was credited with six.
-- Beagle also won 12 of 16 faceoffs and had an assist. If there was still a hard hat award, he might have earned it. By the way, just what is that post-game award the Caps are using this season?
-- Tom Wilson recorded two assists, his first two-helper game since December 13, 2014 against Tampa Bay, and first career two-assist game on the road.
-- Jason Chimera added an assist to his two power play goals, making it his first three-point game since April 10, 2014, at Carolina.
-- The two power play goals for the Caps was the first time they scored more than one in a contest since their 7-4 win at Edmonton on October 23rd.
-- Braden Holtby improved to 4-0-0, 1.98, .923 in games following a loss. In baseball parlance, that’s being a “stopper.” In this case, he is his own stopper, avoiding personal losing streaks.
-- For the second time in three games, Alex Ovechkin appeared to have set the Russian-born goal scorer record. For the second time in three games, the goal was challenged. For the second time in three games, the challenge was based on something Justin Williams did (in last night’s case, an offside infraction). For the second time in three games, the challenge was upheld. Maybe the third time will be the charm.
In the end…
There are few more pleasurable outcomes in a Caps game than beating the Flyers in Philadelphia. Not that this Flyers team is good; they’re not (now 1-6-2 in their last nine games). And Caps fans might take a little extra pleasure in having the Caps kick a bitter rival when they are down, especially after the Flyers had their way with the Caps last season. But this was just another instance of shrugging off a frustrating loss a couple of nights earlier and taking care of business. Through 14 games, the Caps do not have the look of the Ferrari that they were in 2009-2010 when they lit up the scoreboard regularly. This club is more of an earth-mover, grinding up and disposing of whatever is in their path, ruthlessly and relentlessly. Frankly, when they play like this, it is a pleasure to watch.